Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894 / United States)
A Poem For The Meeting Of The American Medical Association At New York, May 5, 1853
I HOLD a letter in my hand,-
A flattering letter, more's the pity,-
By some contriving junto planned,
And signed per order of Committee.
It touches every tenderest spot,-
My patriotic predilections,
My well-known -something- don't ask what,-
My poor old songs, my kind affections.
They make a feast on Thursday next,
And hope to make the feasters merry;
They own they're something more perplexed
For poets than for port and sherry.
They want the men of (word torn out);
Our friends will come with anxious faces,
(To see our blankets off, no doubt,
And trot us out and show our paces.)
They hint that papers by the score
Are rather musty kind of rations,
They don't exactly mean a bore,
But only trying to the patience;
That such as you know who I mean
Distinguished for their what d'ye call 'em
Should bring the dews of Hippocrene
To sprinkle on the faces solemn.
The same old story: that's the chaff
To catch the birds that sing the ditties;
Upon my soul, it makes me laugh
To read these letters from Committees!
They're all so loving and so fair,
All for your sake such kind compunction;
'T would save your carriage half its wear
To touch its wheels with such an unction!
Why, who am I, to lift me here
And beg such learned folk to listen,
To ask a smile, or coax a tear
Beneath these stoic lids to glisten?
As well might some arterial thread
Ask the whole frame to feel it gushing,
While throbbing fierce from heel to head
As well some hair-like nerve might strain
To set its special streamlet going,
While through the myriad-channelled brain
The burning flood of thought was flowing;
Or trembling fibre strive to keep
The springing haunches gathered shorter,
While the scourged racer, leap on leap,
Was stretching through the last hot quarter!
Ah me! you take the bud that came
Self-sown in your poor garden's borders,
And hand it to the stately dame
That florists breed for, all she orders.
She thanks you, it was kindly meant
(A pale affair, not worth the keeping,)
Good morning; and your bud is sent
To join the tea-leaves used for sweeping.
Not always so, kind hearts and true,
For such I know are round me beating;
Is not the bud I offer you,
Fresh gathered for the hour of meeting,
Pale though its outer leaves may be,
Rose-red in all its inner petals?
Where the warm life we cannot see
The life of love that gave it settles.
We meet from regions far away,
Like rills from distant mountains streaming;
The sun is on Francisco's bay,
O'er Chesapeake the lighthouse gleaming;
While summer girds the still bayou
In chains of bloom, her bridal token,
Monadnock sees the sky grow blue,
His crystal bracelet yet unbroken.
Yet Nature bears the selfsame heart
Beneath her russet-mantled bosom
As where, with burning lips apart,
She breathes and white magnolias blossom;
The selfsame founts her chalice fill
With showery sunlight running over,
On fiery plain and frozen hill,
On myrtle-beds and fields of clover.
I give you Home! its crossing lines
United in one golden suture,
And showing every day that shines
The present growing to the future,
A flag that bears a hundred stars
In one bright ring, with love for centre,
Fenced round with white and crimson bars
No prowling treason dares to enter!
O brothers, home may be a word
To make affection's living treasure,
The wave an angel might have stirred,
A stagnant pool of selfish pleasure;
HOME! It is where the day-star springs
And where the evening sun reposes,
Where'er the eagle spreads his wings,
From northern pines to southern roses!
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